Housing Minister Grant Shapps has said he will back a new Bill that would make the subletting of social homes a criminal offence.
The new bill will be introduced in Parliament today by Conservative MP for Watford Richard Harrington, following estimates that suggest that between 50,000 and 160,000 social homes are unlawfully occupied right across the UK.
Current legislation permits that if these tenancy cheats are caught they face little more than losing their tenancy.
Mr Harrington’s Bill would change this, by:
- creating a new criminal offence of subletting; and
- allow proceeds of subletting to be reimbursed to the social landlord, in whose stock the fraud was committed.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:
“Tenancy cheats profit from renting out homes that were built to help those in greatest need. Due to their actions, thousands of families who could benefit from this vital support system are instead languishing on housing waiting lists.
“I am delighted that Richard Harrington’s Bill will make this fraud a criminal offence so that the perpetrators don’t just lose their tenancy but feel the full force of the law. And by introducing this effective deterrent against subletting, we can free up thousands of homes for those who genuinely need them.
“I look forward to working with Mr Harrington to give this Bill the best possible chance of being passed into law.”
Conservative MP for Watford Richard Harrington said:
“It has been a concern of mine for some time that whilst hundreds of people in my constituency are unable to access social housing and may sit on the waiting list for many years, a large number of properties are being sublet improperly - allowing those individuals who do so to profit at the expense of local authorities and preventing hard-working and the most vulnerable individuals and families from accessing homes.
“I welcome that this and previous Governments have introduced measures to try and tackle this problem. I think it is right that once and for all this offence is criminalised, giving local authorities greater powers to prevent and prosecute.
“I am pleased that this Bill has attracted support from MPs of all parties and that the Government are also lending their support to making this Bill law.”
At Landlord Referencing we welcome these new plans, as we fully understand that tenancy cheats can potentially earn thousands of pounds a year by renting their social homes out, whilst thousands of deserving families are left languishing on social housing waiting lists.
But where does this leave the private landlord?
We talk to 100′s of landlords and letting agents on a daily basis and subletting is becoming an ever increasing problem that is also plaguing private landlords, right across the UK.
But because subletting private property is a breach of contract, rather than a criminal offence, the private landlord has no choice but to go through the lengthy process of obtaining a court order eviction in order to remove the original tenant from the property and once this is gained; an eviction order can then remove whoever is inhabiting the property.
In the mean time, the tenant (who cannot be evicted without a court order) can simply continue to take money from the subletting tenants and not pass it onto the landlord.
In one particular case: one of our landlord community had a tenant who sublet their property, and on searching the tenant via our lifestyle referencing systems we found two other landlords who had also registered them as their tenant. On contacting these two landlords they discovered that this tenant had also been subletting their properties out and on further investigation it was believed that the tenant had rented out 10 other properties! At £500 a month (each) this equated to the tenant raking in £5,000 a month, and they got away scot free.
With the answer to the housing crisis inevitably being at the door of the private landlord now, we believe that the government is denying the rights of hundreds of thousands of deserving P.R.S tenants; who are also on waiting lists but cannot get homes because of current legislation that is weighted in favour of the tenant, and therefore landlords have to go through the lengthy process of court proceedings before eviction can take place.
We believe that if subletting was made illegal in the private rented sector this would free up thousands upon thousands of illegally inhabited properties that could then be rented out to deserving and decent tenants.
Furthermore, communications via our community also reveal that there are thousands of private landlords out there that know that their tenants are illegally subletting their properties but do nothing about it because they are either scared of the repercussions from their tenants or just don’t think it’s worth the hassle.
Is it right that social housing tenants are treated as more deserving of homes than private tenants?
Is it right that tenants will now think it’s OK to defraud private landlords, because they can get away with it?